SEF sets fundraising gala

Published 6:33 pm Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Suffolk Education Foundation is hoping to pump $5,000 into Suffolk Public Schools’ arts programs through its upcoming fundraiser, Masquerade: A Gala in Celebration of the Arts.

The second annual gala is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 1 at the Suffolk Hilton Garden Inn, 100 E. Constance Road. All proceeds from the Mardi Gras-themed event will go back to Suffolk’s middle and high schools to fund art initiatives, according to foundation Executive Director Renyatta Banks.

The foundation hopes more than 500 people — double the number who attended last year’s debut gala — will attend the semi-formal dinner and student talent show this year, Banks said.

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At the gala, middle and high school student musicians will entertain with jazz and blues selections, Banks said. More than 50 festive, decorative masks — standard gear for true Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans — will be exhibited at the gala.

Masks made by art teachers will be raffled to the highest bidders, Banks said. Guests will have the opportunity to buy tickets to cast votes for their favorite masks crafted by students.

“It’s a great opportunity for people in the community to see public school students’ art and … for parents to see the fruits of their children’s labor,” Banks said. “It will be a good time, and it’s for a good cause.”

All proceeds from the fundraiser will be divided among all the schools’ various arts programs, Banks said.

Teachers will not have to go through the process of submitting mini-grant applications and schools will have the freedom to decide exactly how they want to use their proceeds, Banks said.

The foundation raised $3,000 at last year’s gala, she said

It’s important for the foundation — and the public — to support arts in public schools, Banks said.

“Traditionally, arts are one of the first areas hit when school districts have to start trimming budgets,” said Banks. “The arts are so important for children … and if they don’t have availability to (arts) resources, it would limit their creativity.”

Tickets are $35 and can be ordered via email to or by calling Banks at 775-9682.